DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Air Force and Hawaii Air National Guard's seventh C-17 cargo jet has been named "Spirit of Go for Broke" in honor of the 100th Battalion. Eddie Yamasaki, left, Seiji Tanigawa and Shigeru Tsubota stood next to the plane yesterday at Hickam Air Force Base.
Air Force honors vets with C-17
The "Go for Broke" plane is a tribute to the WWII heroics of Japanese Americans
The Air Force honored the World War II bravery of Japanese-American soldiers yesterday by naming its newest plane after their motto, "Go for Broke."
Hundreds of airmen greeted more than 50 veterans from the mostly Japanese-American 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team with a standing ovation as they walked across the tarmac at Hickam Air Force Base for the C-17 cargo plane's christening ceremony.
Many of the vets, who boarded the jet for a brief ride across the runway, said they never imagined they would ever be so recognized.
"When we rode the plane, I was so filled with emotion. Not because of the plane ride, but because of the reception that they gave us today," said Ed Ikuma, 88. "Never had anything like this before."
The men volunteered to fight for their country even as many Americans doubted their loyalty because of their ancestry. Some soldiers went to war with relatives among the 120,000 Japanese Americans the U.S. government sequestered in internment camps.
Ikuma served 4 1/2 years with the 100th Battalion, including three years in North Africa, Italy and France.
"This is a terrific day for me. Now I can go, I can go to my destination," he said, pointing to the sky.
By the end of the war, the 100th Battalion442nd Regimental Combat Team became the most highly decorated unit of its size. It also suffered one of the highest casualty rates.
The men emerged from seven major campaigns in France and Italy with eight presidential unit citations, 9,486 Purple Hearts and 18,143 individual decorations. The latter included 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, the second-highest award for valor.
In 2000 the White House belatedly awarded seven Asian Americans from the unit, including U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, the Medal of Honor. Fourteen other Medals of Honor went to surviving families of soldiers who had already died.
Col. William Changose, commander of the 15th Airlift Wing, said "The Spirit of Go for Broke" was the only C-17 in the Air Force to be named after a motto. Most of the jets are named after people and places.
"Every time somebody flies that plane, they're going to wonder what 'Go for Broke' means," Changose said. "We hope it will encourage them to study their history and learn about this fantastic unit, and hopefully inspire them to do great things, also."
The plane will be a part of the 15th Airlift Wing at Hickam, joining six other C-17 planes already assigned to the base. One more C-17 is due to be delivered later this year.